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Christmas Across The Carolinas: McAdenville, North Carolina

December 2, 2009

The official start of the holidays tends to be a few hours after you’ve swallowed the last of your turkey. Just getting to Christmas Eve turns into a sprint, battling mall traffic and long lines, with nary a thought given to slowing down and enjoying the season. For those inclined to catch their breath and take in the festive atmosphere of the season, a drive through the Gaston town of McAdenville, also known as Christmastown, USA, provides a chance to slow down and experience a guaranteed boost of holiday cheer.

McAdenville celebrated its 54th consecutive season as a Carolina destination for Christmas revelers, its tenth successive year with a lighting ceremony. Those who showed up early were treated to Christmas carols by both the Gaston Christian Ensemble and the students from McAdenville Elementary. At 5:15, with a countdown and a proclamation to “Light up Christmastown!” the switch was flipped on over 450,000 lights across town. Those lights will shine Monday through Friday from 5:30 pm to 9:30pm,  and til 11 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, until December 26th.

Of course, the lights are not restricted to the town itself.  The residents of McAdenville join in, as well. Many houses contain the same wonderful displays as in years past. Some are more elaborate, while others have less of a wow factor. All of them exude the same spirit of the season. Near the end of the display (or the beginning, depending on which direction you’re going in), is the lake near the heart of town. A total of 33 sparkling trees circle the lake, with a multicolored water fountain near the middle, accompanied by Old Man Winter blowing snowflakes across the water.  No doubt about it–this display makes the lake a must-see part of Christmastown. Just off from the lake is the J.M. Carstarphen Bridge, ensconced with lights and decked out in wreathes.

Be sure to drive through town with your headlights off. The lights from the houses and trees will  suffice to illuminate the way.

McAdenville isn’t the flashiest Christmas display in the country. Certainly there are other Christmas displays sporting more lights and flashier  content,  but McAdenville is not about glitz, glamor, and having more lights than anyone else.  It’s about the spirit of the season.

Park at one end of town and simply walk the length of the lights.  You will be greeted by folks standing on their porches wishing passersby a Merry Christmas. You will hear carols playing from car stereos.  In the distance, church bells will be ringing throughout the town.  You are walking through smalltown America’s salute to Christmas.

McAdenville is that little box with the big gift inside; the smalltown community that celebrates the spirit of the season in a wonderfully personal fashion, neighbor-to-neighbor.

John Lennon once sang, “And so this is Christmas . . . ”  He could have been singing about McAdenville . . . Christmastown, USA.


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